by Turner Blaufuss
While many college athletes make plans to coach a team after they finish their playing career, Andrea Rognlien has taken a different route.
The senior Dragon had one year of eligibility left from her time playing tennis at Concordia-Moorhead, and after a year on the Cobber coaching staff and one season as a Dragon assistant, Rognlien decided to join her team on the court.
“It’s been good. I’m very glad to have her back for her last season,” MSUM coach Oliver Summers said. “She’s very easily made the transition from coach to player.”
Although Rognlien enjoyed being on the coaching staff and plans on continuing coaching, the Dragon newcomer missed facing off with players in other uniforms.
“I think I enjoy the playing aspect more than the coaching,” Rognlien said. “I missed competing and it was kind of a last-minute decision to play. I guess I didn’t want to look back and regret it.”
Rognlien has worked her way up to the No. 1 spot on the team and her coach admits he was pleasantly surprised when Rognlien wanted to lace up her own tennis shoes for another season.
“I’ve known her since she played tennis in high school; I followed her career at Concordia, so when I found out she was eligible for another year, I was really excited. I had no prior knowledge,” Summers said. “She’s been one of the dominant players in the conference and earned our No. 1 spot on our team.”
Most would think having coaching experience would give Rognlien an advantage, but the senior exercise science major admitted it made playing more difficult at times.
“I actually find it a little harder playing now, because when I’m playing with these girls I notice things and if I was coaching I’d say something, but since I’m playing I usually don’t,” Rognlien said.
Rognlien’s year as an assistant helped her to form a strong bond with her teammates, and the Dragons’ chemistry is strong enough to mix up the doubles frequently. Rognlien has had three different partners in competitions this season.
“I’m good friends with all the girls. Relationships didn’t really change. I think they just got better, because I’m their teammate and not their coach, so it’s not really much different,” Rognlien said. “It’s good to mix it up. All the girls get along really well, so it doesn’t matter when we switch partners.”
Having a former coach on the team is also an advantage for the younger Dragons, who aren’t afraid to look to Rognlien for tips on how to improve.
“The players don’t necessarily look to her for coaching, but the younger players follow her example of how to prepare for matches and the attitude to bring on the court,” Summers said.
Rognlien and her fellow Dragons head to Minnetonka Friday for the NSIC Championships.